Wednesday, 25 July 2018

James Gunn, Twitter & How Times Change

The Guardians of the Galaxy films are perfection: funny, emotional, action-packed, colourful, and full of talented and creative people. As a huge fan, I've found myself wondering more and more what Vol. 3 will bring (particularly after the events of Avengers: Infinity War), and I've thought many times that the films are as good as they are because all elements come together in just such a way that they create something special. If one of these elements were to fall out of place, I've caught myself thinking, these films automatically would not be as good.

This brings me to several days ago, when I opened the Twitter app and came across a tweet that said something along the lines of 'Petition for Taika Waititi to direct GotG3!' At first, I was confused. Why would we need Taika when we already have James Gunn to complete the trilogy? I brushed it off as somebody's funny little fantasy and moved on.

But the further down my feed I scrolled, the more information was revealed, and my little Guardians-obsessed heart stopped when I finally caught sight of a headline stating that James Gunn had been fired by Disney and Marvel, and would no longer be directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Now, that may sound overly-dramatic, but I can say with full confidence that I was absolutely heartbroken to hear this news. I didn't realise why he had been fired until a few tweets later. A decade ago, he had posted a series of controversial tweets which have recently been unearthed and condemned.

It's a controversial subject that has divided opinion to say the least. In the very short period of time since the news broke, I have seen people either claiming that James did nothing wrong or that he should basically be hanged for his crimes. In typical me-fashion, I find myself able to see both sides of the argument, although for once, there is no question about which side I am on. But a topic like this, one that has so many layers to it, clearly needs to be broken down. So let's do just that.

First, let's go over the negatives. The tweets are...extremely questionable, to say the least. I was prepared to fully side with James until I read a collection of the decade-old tweets. I am a hard person to offend, but some things he said were quite shocking, although far from the worst thing I have ever seen on the Internet. I get that we're not grading on a curve here and that just because it's slightly less awful it doesn't make it right, but still. I can understand fully why people took offence to those posts. I understand that James was in his forties at the time and should probably have known better than to tweet jokes about such topics, especially so many jokes. Plenty of people have been throwing around the number 10,000 in terms of how many tweets were actually published to his page, but I have yet to see concrete proof that this is the number of offensive tweets on his page. I also accept that the sense of humour he once had does not gel well with Disney's current image.

But there are some questions we must now ask, such as, 'Why was this issue not brought up a decade ago, when these tweets were actually posted online?' Because, simply put, 2008 was a different time. This incident has encouraged the idea that a lot can change over a long period of time, but it is not only people that can change a great deal in ten years. Society as a whole can change too. In 2008, the year that I started secondary school, I remember that edgy jokes in the corridors were the norm, and plenty of offensive terms were thrown around. I even said a few myself, just because I thought it was the cool thing to do at the time. Of course, society moved on and I grew up, and we all realised that these things were offensive and - dare I even say the word - problematic. Now, ten years later, we have made some steady progress as a society, and that is why plenty of us can look back over our old behaviours and say, 'Wow, I sure am glad I'm not like that anymore!' James Gunn himself has supposedly done this before, since he stated in his apology on Twitter, 'As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and humour.' Marvel apparently knew about his controversial past before they brought him in to work on Guardians. So why is he being demonised for it now?

Because this is what Disney does, apparently. The exact same cycle of events happened when PewDiePie's content was exposed as being supposedly 'anti-Semitic', when he was simply using the Nazi imagery for humorous purposes and hyperbole. The Wall Street Journal piled the pressure on Disney to sever ties with him, and so Disney caved. I wrote a whole article about this earlier this year, which was more just an excuse to rant about how much I despise Logan Paul, but which nevertheless makes a point that I am trying to make here. Comedy and jokes are subjective. A creative persona does not necessarily represent what the person behind it is truly like. Just because a joke does not make you laugh, that does not automatically make it wrong. Yes, jokes may be taken out of context and used in less-than-desirable scenarios, such as when groups of real online neo-Nazis began using PewDiePie's content as propaganda, but these incidents are few and far between, I find. It is often difficult to discern the reasoning behind a joke, and I feel like this is why the first reaction to a disrespectful joke is outrage because it is just the default setting in this day and age. In my view, dark humour often seems to come from a place of superiority, to make fun of the individuals who commit the heinous acts about which they joke, especially in this era of online comedy. I follow a plethora of creators who joke about taboo topics simply to convey that they are above others. PewDiePie used Nazi imagery to make fun of their behaviour, to prove that he found such acts unbelievably stupid, essentially to prove that he was not, and would never be, a Nazi.  Admittedly, James Gunn's tweets were not posted during the more 'woke' era of edgy comedy, and his intent was to shock in order to gain popularity as a writer and actor. In the age of the Internet, it is harder to use sheer shock value to appeal to the masses, and yet, it seems that this worked. James has become very successful.

When the Guardians cast expressed their sympathy for James Gunn on Twitter, some were more outspoken than others and came under heavier fire. One Twitter user demanded that Dave Bautista explain his reasoning behind standing by James and claiming that people change while simultaneously condemning Trump during the 2016 presidential election for his 'grab 'em by the pussy' remark, which was made in 2005. Although this argument seems convincing on the surface, it doesn't really hold that much weight. For one thing, Dave and James know each other personally, and Dave is therefore aware of what he is truly like as a person, meaning that he can recognise how he has changed, and can also see when he is being slandered, which is why he was quick to call out people who were calling James a pedophile with no evidence but decade-old jokes to back up their claims. Another way to look at it is that, while James has improved himself and his sense of humour has matured, Trump has proved himself during his presidency to be just as misogynistic now as he was when the clip emerged, providing strong evidence that he has not changed at all. I think the same thing when I see Chris Brown fans crying about how people keep dragging up the fact that he assaulted Rihanna, but it's for the simple reason that he continues to be disrespectful and abusive to women to this day, meaning that he cannot learn from the past, improve as a person, and at least attempt to rectify his mistakes. If there is evidence that a person is improving themselves, it is ridiculous to bring up their past and shove it in their face.

And let us not forget that the person who exposed James' old tweets was an alt-right conspiracy theorist by the name of Mike Cernovich. By preying on the leftist fans of Disney and James Gunn, he managed to wrongfully discredit a man who has apologised for his past behaviour, who has spent the latter part of his career creating spectacular art, and who is often quick to speak out about important issues on his own social media platforms. In short, he made people believe that James Gunn's past was more important than his future, and that we should judge him by who he was, not who he will become or even who he is now. Oh, and Mike here also has a history of joking about rape on Twitter. Do I even need to point out the hypocrisy in this scenario?

I think that this is the point that I have been trying to make in this very long piece. Nobody in this world is perfect, and if we condemn everybody who has ever uttered an offensive word in a comedic way or has made an edgy joke or has done something that someone else - anyone else - might deem inappropriate, we will run out of people to look up to. We will run out of artists whose work we admire, and we will discourage everybody from maturing and admitting to their previous mistakes. By the Internet's standards, if you're imperfect in any way, you're automatically 'cancelled'. This mentality is what leads people to sanitise their pasts, deleting old tweets and pushing things under the rug, not because those tweets are still representative of their personality in the present day, but because they believe that they will be called out and bullied if they are ever found. Everybody has regrets and has made bad decisions or mistakes, but it is unfair to remind a person who is attempting to leave their past behind to become a better version of themselves of how little you think of them just because of who they once were.

And yes, I will state this here for the record because there will always be somebody who takes things out of context or will get riled up upon reading this: everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and if you were personally offended by James' tweets, that's not a bad thing. But please remember that, when it comes to comedy, offence is taken, not given, and I urge you to please consider what I have written about people changing and improving from their past behaviour the next time that somebody is condemned on any kind of social media. If it were you, you would be quick to defend yourself and try to convince the faceless mob of Twitter trolls that you have changed, and that your past behaviour does not represent you anymore. Please do not be so quick to lose faith in people before you understand their journey. They might just surprise you.

(For people who were wondering about the challenge, watch this space. May or may not be completing it. I just know that I've had plenty of ideas for blog posts while I've been confined to the challenge, and I simply had to write about this because, when both Guardians of the Galaxy and Internet culture are involved in the same topic, how could I not write about it? Also, if you fancy reading a similar but vastly more coherent post about this, check out this post from my former English & Creative Writing friend and fellow blogger Emily.)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 16 & 17/30: Catching Up

Yep, I'm doing two challenges in one day. Because damn, I need to catch up. Still going to be returning to those prompts that I've missed at the end of the month, but for now, I need to get ahead with this challenge before other projects start getting in the way. So, without further ado, here we go with these prompts:

Day 16: Something that you miss

The only things I miss are the things that I either lost because of time or because of my own incompetence. I miss university, and I miss Dundee and all the wonderful people there. I miss my old flat and the freedom of living alone, not that I'm ungrateful for having great parents who are letting me live with them once again, but once you've tasted freedom, it's hard to go back to living under somebody else's roof and obeying their rules. I miss all the friends that I lost because I just stopped speaking to them, or because we never talked things out to resolve a conflict. I miss all the chances I never took because I thought I wasn't good enough, all of those jobs I never applied for because of my fear of rejection. I've said before that I'm one of those people who never takes the risk, and I always end up wondering what could have happened. Ever since I watched Sliding Doors, I've had this belief that one small decision can change your whole life, and I've ended up regretting every potentially life-changing decision that has passed me by.

Consider this piece of writing also a response to Day 11's prompt ('Something you always think 'What if...?' about') because the two go hand-in-hand with me. I seem to hold myself back from making decisions out of fear of making a mistake, but in not taking the opportunities that come my way, I'm making a mistake all the same. It's a lose-lose situation, and I go round in circles, vowing that I will do better next time that I genuinely have nothing to lose. But lo and behold, when that next time comes around, I go right back to being scared and reluctant, no matter how good the offer is.

There are plenty of things that I miss and plenty of things that have passed me by, but I feel like things can only get better from here. I'm nowhere near where I want to be in terms of taking risks and taking on new challenges, but if I can just build up that courage and that self-belief, I'll be able to do all the things that I've always been too scared to do.

Day 17: Post about your zodiac sign, and whether or not it fits you

I was obsessed with zodiac signs when I was younger. I even bought a little pocket book that described the characteristics of each sign, a book which I have propped open next to me right now so that I can talk about the pros and cons of my star sign, Libra. These lists run a little long, so I'll cut them down into their most basic characteristics. Here we go:


  • Cooperative and an excellent mediator: I'd say that this is true. I'm not great at arguing my case, but being in the middle of a debate suits me just fine, letting other people have their say and trying to find middle ground.
  • Good companion: I try my best. I like to get along with everybody, although sometimes that is to my detriment.
  • Artistic: Not in the painting and drawing sense, but I have a great respect for art and writing is definitely an art form, so...yeah, I'd say that's about right.
  • Has clear opinions and strong beliefs: This one doesn't really sound like me. I try so hard to see every side of an argument that I end up not really having an opinion of my own or being very easily swayed by others.
  • Loving and romantic: Not that I've had much of an opportunity to be romantic, but I like romance. I don't even mean that I like the 'roses and chocolates' type of romance. I just like feeling close to another person. Stories of romance restore my faith in humanity too. 
  • Sincere: Since I'm awful at telling lies and feel incredibly guilty whenever I do, I'd say that I remain sincere and honest just to keep my karma in check.
  • Charming: Again, I try my best. I don't really think I'm charming. I've met charming people before who just exude this wonderful energy and make you feel blessed just to be around them. I don't have that energy, although I wish that I did.
  • Communicative: When you eventually get to know me, yes. I never shut up once you get me started. But when you first meet me, chances are I'll be shy and quiet to an infuriating degree. I don't even know why, and yet I am.
  • Narcissistic: I suppose I care about how I look a little too much sometimes, and maybe some people out there would consider me to be vain with the amount of makeup I own and the amount of selfies I take. I wouldn't say that I'm narcissistic in an unhealthy way, but that's just me.
  • Sulky: I can hear my parents loudly agreeing somewhere in the distance. I can get incredibly sulky, and anyone who can put up with me when I do should get a trophy.
  • Fearful: Too accurate. Pretty much everything scares me. I'm certainly no daredevil and probably never will be.
  • Indecisive: Again, this is me all over. Do you want to be friends with someone who changes her mind ten times about what to have when she's in a restaurant? No? Yeah, no one does, really.
  • Manipulative: As much as I hate to admit it, I have found myself on more than one occasion trying to manipulate another person into believing my side of a story. This was something I did more when I was in my teens and I've stopped myself doing it now because it's an awful thing to do, but to my knowledge, no one has ever been genuinely hurt by my actions. I probably wouldn't be able to live with myself if anyone had been.
  • Overbearing: If I ever come across as overbearing to someone, it probably means that I just really like them. Most of the time, I'm the opposite: never the first to text or start a conversation out of fear of coming across as needy. 
  • Flirtatious: Hahahahahahahahahaha. If it ever seems like I'm flirting with you, I'm probably not. I seem to flirt when I don't mean to. If I ever talk constant nonsense at you and act really weird to the point where you feel sorry for me for even trying, then that means I'm attempting to flirt with you. Been in that situation far too many times.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 15/30: My Day

Day 15: Bullet-point your whole day

Well, this should be exciting.

  • 6:45am - First alarm. I hit the snooze button.
  • 6:54am - Second alarm. I snooze it again.
  • 7:03am - Third alarm. I finally decide to get up and go through my usual morning routine. I weigh in (13st 12lb, which isn't great but which is understandable after a meal at Pizza Hut on Friday evening), brush my teeth, take my hair out of the previous evening's space buns to see how curly my hair has become overnight, and try to drink 500ml of water while doing my makeup. Today, I went for winged eyeliner and an old favourite lippy. 
  • 8:00am - Breakfast. Chunky nut granola, lemon curd yoghurt and a sprinkling of mixed seeds, plus a cup of cranberry juice. Delicious. I amuse myself by trying to figure out the secret holiday destination for our family's week away in August. My parents won't give anything away about where we're going, and I probably won't know until we're literally in the airport, waiting to leave.
  • 8:35am - I leave for work which is about a fifteen minute drive away, and while I generally flick between radio stations on the drive until I find something that I want to listen to, I am hooked the moment I turn on BBC Radio 1 and hear Chris Malinchak's 'So Good To Me' playing in their summer mix. Haven't heard that song in years, and it still puts me in such a good mood.
  • 8:50am - I arrive at work, wondering whether or not the day is going to be busy, and also happy to realise that there is a good group of people working with me today.
  • 11:10am - A fifteen-minute break. The morning has been steady, so there's no need for me to make myself a flavoured latte as a pick-me-up. I have half a litre of water and a bag of lightly salted Sun Bites instead.
  • 2:40pm - Lunchtime. It's been fairly busy, so I opt to have a brown bread roll along with my cream of mushroom soup. Lunchtime is always quiet, or at least it is for me because I like to just sit and check social media while I eat (but if someone wants to talk to me, obviously I'll have a conversation), so it's a welcome relief from the bustle of the café.
  • 5:00pm - Quitting time. It's been a hot day, so my car is airless and stuffy when I get into it. You'd think I would have learned by now to crack a window, but nah. I just roll the window down, blast the air conditioning, and listen to the radio as I drive home.
  • 5:15pm - I get home just in time to catch the end of the World Cup final. Two goals are scored in the ten minutes that I hover downstairs before running to get changed, and I feel a bit gutted to have missed the whole match.
  • 5:45pm - My family and I eat dinner and watch Wimbledon, which I'm not invested in at all but it makes for some nice background noise. It's a lovely dinner tonight, with plenty of veg (both cold salad veg, and peppers and onions grilled on the BBQ) and a tuna steak marinaded in soy sauce. It's the kind of dinner that makes me really appreciate my mum's efforts with this vegetable-centric diet. She always finds a way to make it tasty and exciting. We might have shared a tub of mango and passionfruit ice cream afterwards, but it's not all bad has fruit in it?
  • 7:15pm - I take a quick drive into town to get fuel for the car, a task which used to fill me with dread. Now it's just kind of mundane.
  • 8:00pm - Time for a quick shower (well, not really quick since I like to take long showers, but don't tell Scottish Water that I'm doing that or they'd probably murder me) and then it's time to sit down and do some writing while my hair dries in a hair turban. Oh wait, my computer's storage disk is full and I'm going to have to spend the best part of an hour trying to clear some space. My least favourite computer-related task.
  • 10:30pm: I finally finish today's blog post, dry my hair, brush my teeth, turn off the fan that has been keeping my room cool, and head to bed.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 14/30: Films I Love (& An Explanation)

Day 14: Post your favourite movies that you never get tired of watching

Hello again, blog. It's been a while. And by 'a while', I mean a few days, but still. I've missed four prompts of this challenge because I've been busy in the evenings this week (watching the England/Croatia World Cup game, commiserating over said game, going to the cinema, and clearing out my wardrobe to name a few things that I've been getting up to) and haven't had a great deal of time to write. To rectify this, I'll revisit the prompts that I missed at the end of the challenge (the advantages of doing a 30-day challenge in a 31-day month!) and in the meantime, I'll continue with the prompts in order. Safe to say that I've failed the challenge, but what did everyone really expect? This is me we're talking about.

But there was no way that I was going to miss this one because there are some movies that I want to rave about, the kind of movies that I put on when there's nothing else on TV and I just want something familiar to watch that I know I'll enjoy. For me, these are films that have stood the test of time. These aren't in any particular order since I love them all pretty much equally. There are probably more films that I could mention, but I don't want to drag this on for too long.

Also, fair warning: these films will in no way make me seem cool or interesting. Plus, I may have taken three semesters' worth of film classes at uni and may know a little about how to read and interpret films, but my tastes are pretty basic and there are many many many MANY classic films that I have never seen, so don't expect much in-depth analysis or any beloved classics to appear on this list. Okay, here we go:

  1. Big Hero 6 (2014): Like any reasonable human being, I love most Disney movies (particularly the Disney Pixar ones, most of which I would include on this list if I weren't worried about how long this post would be if I did), but when I look back over the many Disney films that I've watched over the years, Big Hero 6 always stands out. And I won't lie, most of it is because I love Baymax so much. I have a Baymax plush that I hug when I'm sad, and it makes me feel better just because he's so darn adorable. I have the biggest soft spot for cute sidekick characters, the kind that would annoy the hell out of you in real life if you had to put up with them, but who you absolutely love when you see them on screen. Baymax is definitely one of those characters. This film makes me laugh out loud and makes me feel all kinds of emotional every single time I watch it. The way that grief and depression are portrayed is just so admirable for a movie aimed at young children, and it's possibly that more than anything else that makes me happy that this film exists. There's such a wonderful mix of humour and heartfelt storytelling that it's always a joy to experience, and I always come away from it with a smile. 
  2. Star Trek (2009): I vividly remember not wanting to see this at the cinema when I was thirteen. My parents had taken my brother and I along, and I was preparing myself for two hours of boredom, mostly because pop culture had drilled into me that Star Trek was a nerd thing that only weird people enjoyed. And yet, I left the cinema having really enjoyed the movie. The real love for it came later, when my family and I watched it three nights in a row because it was showing on Sky Cinema and nothing else was on television that we wanted to watch. Now, nearly ten years on, I still feel that same magic watching this film. I didn't go to the cinema in 2009 with any prior knowledge of who the characters were or really any details of the original show or plotlines, but this movie truly made me fall in love with the characters and made me care entirely too much about fictional worlds that I never would have thought I would care about. Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond are both fantastic as well (I know I'm in the minority with that first one, but who cares?) and although I've approached these films in the same way that I approached the Star Wars sequels - with limited prior knowledge of the respective universes and characters - I can still enjoy them as someone who was not overly invested in the original work. I like to think that's a good thing. I'll leave the nitpicking to the fanboys.
  3. Run Fatboy Run (2007): So, I've just looked up the Rotten Tomatoes reviews for this movie, and...damn. Eh, I'll agree to disagree. So what if some of the laughs are a bit cheap? All I know is that I've loved this movie since the first time I saw it, and it's just so easy to watch that I can throw it on whenever and just have a laugh. I find myself quoting lines from this film or referencing scenes from it in real life quite a lot. Maybe it just hits home for me because I'm also overweight and have unsuccessfully tried to shed a few pounds by launching myself into running on several occasions when I was younger and stupider. But there are some surprisingly heartfelt moments in this film that bring out the underlying themes of family and forgiveness. A lot of it might be due to nostalgia, but I do genuinely love this movie.
  4. How To Train Your Dragon (2010): I literally could just say that Toothless is the cutest dragon in history and this mention would be complete. As I said earlier, I have a soft spot for the adorable sidekick. This might not be one of my favourite films ever, but it's one that I always enjoy watching and that I'm likely to watch if there's nothing else on. The story is pretty run-of-the-mill, and yet it's just so charming and funny that I never get tired of it. I don't know what it is with me and animated movies, but they're the ones that seem to stick with me, even into adulthood. 
  5. Stardust (2007): If you'd asked me to write a list of my favourite movies when I was in my early teens, this would have been on there. I was more into the fantasy genre back then than I am now, but I saw this film not too long ago, and I was instantly reminded of why I loved it when I was younger. I won't go into the film in general, but one scene that always stands out for me is when the lead character Tristan is turned into a mouse by a witch and is held captive in a trailer. The fallen star Yvaine feeds him cheese and confesses her love for him, thinking that he can't hear her, and it's probably one of the sweetest moments I've ever seen in a film. 
  6. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)/Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004): I didn't actually realise that these movies came out in the same year until I put them on this list just now. Probably two of the most quotable films I've ever watched, and I reference them both quite a lot as and when I need to. The reason I'm mentioning them both at once is because I remember loving these both so much when I was younger and having the iconic quotes from these films embedded in my memory, plus I enjoy them both now because they're so utterly bizarre that you just have to laugh. I've probably laughed harder at these two films than at any of the others on this list, just because my sense of humour is weird and lines like 'Where did you get those clothes? The toilet store?' make me fall out of my chair with laughter every single damn time.
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)/ Vol. 2 (2017): Anyone who knows me even a little knows that these would be on a list of my favourite films of all time. Hands down my favourite of the MCU movies, and some of my favourite movies ever in general. I could go into so much detail as to why I love them that it's embarrassing, plus Marvel fans and YouTubers such as Lindsay Ellis and I Hate Everything have already picked them apart so thoroughly that I have very little to add that would be considered original. I'll just say that their themes and messages run surprisingly deep considering that they're superhero movies, and yes, while they're both very colourful and fun and absolutely hilarious and bizarre, they both have so much heart packed into them that they leave you feeling all sorts of feels. And I love that. Any film that can make me laugh and cry in the same viewing is guaranteed to stick in my mind. All it takes to fall in love with the Guardians movies is watching the opening credits scene of the first one, a scene which is just iconic at this point. I'll never be able to hear 'Come and Get Your Love' without picturing Star Lord dancing on the surface of a lonely planet (and 'Hooked on a Feeling' will now forever be associated with shirtless Chris Pratt, but do you hear me complaining?). If I had to choose between the two, I would say that Vol. 2 is my favourite. Not sure if I'm in the minority on that one or not because opinions are all over the place when it comes to these films, but the second one was the one that made me laugh harder throughout thanks to so many hilarious moments that I could never pick a favourite, but also made me super emotional at the end. The last few times I've watched Vol. 2, I've cried. I love literally everything about these films, and I hope that Vol. 3 is just as wonderful when it comes out in 2020, and keeps that spark alive right to the end of the trilogy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 10/30: Taking A Break To Talk About Poetry

I'm still so burnt out from yesterday that I'm not looking forward to writing another challenge post today, if I may be brutally honest. So, a third of the way into this challenge, I'm going to skip today's prompt (Day 10: Write about something for which you feel strongly) and instead share the poems that I have recently posted on my Instagram account. I feel like that'll be a little more relaxing than me ranting about the stresses of being an England supporter living in Scotland during the World Cup.

'purse poem', inspired by Instagram poet @amykaypoetry
Writing about items that you find in your bag should be mundane, and it sounds far too familiar to ever be an interesting subject for a serious poem, but once you realise what the items in your bag say about you as a person, it becomes a great deal more serious. One rummage through my bag had me wondering why I had so many pills and pens and old receipts in there, and one glance at the bag itself had me wondering why I hadn't thrown the bag away months ago, with its ripped strap and faulty drawstring. Reading other people's poems on this topic was also very intriguing: not everybody carries similar things in their bags, after all.

For full image on Instagram, click here.

'blue is a happy colour, discuss', taken at Dawlish Warren Beach
My family and I were away this weekend in the south of England for a family 'do', and if anyone here follows me on Instagram, you know that and are probably sick of all the unnecessary photos uploaded to my account over the last four days. The weather was absolutely fantastic and, since our hotel was only a short walk from the beach, I decided that I would go for a wander on my own one morning to see if the setting sparked any inspiration. It took a little longer than I thought (meaning that I was then late for lunch with my family...oops), but I eventually cobbled together these uneven rhyming stanzas. The concept is very simple: blue is generally considered a sad colour, but we commonly associate blue with happiness too, hoping for blue skies in summer and finding peace beside bodies of water. That's it, really. Looking out over the water under a gloriously clear sky, I was surrounded by blue, and I loved it.

For full image on Instagram, click here.

'where my mind goes when it goes', for @amykaypoetry's July List Poem prompt
@amykaypoetry's poems always hit me straight in the heart, and I love that she is now inspiring creativity in others by creating her own prompts for July. The prompts in question are for list poems, something that I had never tried before but have thoroughly enjoyed writing. They kept me entertained on the twelve-hour journey home yesterday, if nothing else. As a total daydreamer with a wondering mind who frequently loses interest in the world around her, it was difficult to keep this poem about random thoughts short. Had I included every thought that runs through my head every day, this list poem could easily reach triple-digit numbers. However, I stuck with the most prominent things: random observations about music, questions that are too big for me to answer, and of course, men. Each 'him' in this poem refers to a different guy, for the record, confirming my suspicions that I think about men too much. I won't give away exactly who they are. I'll just say that two of them are people I know in real life, one is a celebrity crush, and one is an ex. I'll let you make your own assumptions as to which line refers to which man. Anyone who gets it right gets a cookie.

For full image on Instagram, click here.

'if this drink could talk', for @caseywritesthings' July If Poem prompt
In the Instagram writing community, each new month is a chance to have a crack at some new writing prompts. Finding decent prompts on Instagram (or ones that suit your style of writing) can be tricky, but when you find something that stands out, you need to stick with it. @caseywritesthings has created prompts for the month of July that provoke intriguing images in the mind, and cause a poet to consider what she is asking them to write before they put pen to paper. The prompt for this particular one, as you can see by the title in the caption, was 'If this drink could talk', and as somebody who has had her fair share of drinking too much or drinking for courage, it seemed the perfect opportunity to portray alcohol as the devil on your shoulder, the evil voice in your ear that pushes you to do things that you'd rather not. Not my favourite piece that I've ever written since I feel like it's not particularly original (writing about alcohol in an original way is a challenge that would take a long time and a lot of brainstorming for me), but was nice to experiment all the same.

For full image on Instagram, click here.


Monday, 9 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 9/30: Words of Wisdom

Day 9: Post some words of wisdom that speak to you

When I was a child, I read a lot of Roald Dahl. And when I say I read a lot of Roald Dahl, I mean that I got a collection of his books for Christmas one year and spent the rest of the day reading them all, and then the whole of the next year re-reading them over and over again.

Ugh, I used to be so good at reading. What happened? Oh yes, the Internet happened.

But out of all of his books that I have read, the one quote that I will always remember is from The Twits, and if you know even the slightest thing about Roald Dahl and Instagram-worthy quotes, you know exactly what that quote is.

'A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.'

Seriously, how lovely is that? Probably one of my favourite quotes of all time, and the one I'm most likely to hang on my wall surrounded by fairy-lights in the future. Maybe it's because I value genuine smiles so much, and I always appreciate it when I see somebody's positive aura and attitude shining through. It makes me feel a little better about myself too; I may not be overly happy with my appearance, but I know that I look and feel best when I smile.

(Sorry that this post is a short one. Or maybe you're glad that this post is short because you're sick of the long posts that go nowhere, in which case, you're welcome. I've spent the best part of twelve hours in the back of a car on a journey from the south of England to the north-east of Scotland, and I'm not feeling particularly inspired right now as a result of that. Glad that I'd already begun this post before we left for England last Friday! Looking forward to an early night tonight and getting back into the swing of things tomorrow.)


Sunday, 8 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 8/30: Struggles

Day 8: Share something that you struggle with

There's a habit that I have that I wouldn't always say that I struggle with, but there occasionally come times when I have to admit that it is a problem. This habit is hoarding.

I'm most definitely a hoarder. Not a hoarder of anything in particular, just things that I think are interesting or cool. One look at the shelf in my bedroom above my desk tells you all that you need to know about my bad habit. There's an empty bottle of Brooklyn Gin that is just so pretty that there was no way that I was going to let my mum throw it out. Same goes for the vintage tin that once held little individually-wrapped chocolates. Inside a clear container on the shelf below that used to be a box of Ferrero Rocher are keyrings, badges, keys to lockable journals that I don't even own anymore, story ideas that I scribbled on the backs of receipts behind the till at my first job, and the list goes on. On top of said container is a toy car that I took from a previous job when the building was getting refurbished. No one had claimed it, it had been there for months, and it would just get thrown away otherwise, so by that logic, it was up for grabs.

This only really becomes a problem for me when someone points out how much stuff I have. That's not the only word people use to describe the items that fill my drawers and shelves - 'rubbish', 'garbage', 'crap', and many, many more - but I'd say that 'stuff' is probably the most accurate term. I don't consider these things that I choose to keep as 'rubbish' because everything has meaning. To everybody else, it might seem like these things have no meaning, but everything I keep, I keep for a reason. That bottle and that tin that I mentioned earlier? I could use them as decoration - or the tin for storage of some kind - when I eventually get my own place. The keys? Well, you never know when you might need to open a cheaply-made padlock. The story ideas? A sign of how far my writing has come since I was sixteen and trying to find inspiration while working in a café.

And this is why clearing out my room or preparing to move home is so difficult. I know that I have to get rid of the clutter and keep only what is important in an attempt to move on, and yet, I can't. Whenever I attempt to throw something out, a tiny, evil part of my brain chimes in with 'But what if you need it at some point in the future? You can't throw out a huge box of old party poppers and a stack of disposable espresso cups! What if you have a New Year party, or feel the need to have a very very small coffee and then throw away the cup?' And the sad thing is that it's this part of my brain that normally wins. When I moved out of my Dundee flat, I was as ruthless as I could possibly be while emptying out my drawers, and when I got home, I was still told that I had brought home too much. I guess I just can't let some things go. 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 7/30: Now Playing

Day 7: List 10 songs you're loving right now

As I mentioned in my list of things that make me happy, EDM is not just my favourite genre of music, but one of my favourite things in life in general. That definitely shows in this list. These are ten songs that I have recently added to my iTunes library that I am currently loving. Some of them I'll just casually listen to when I'm in the car or out walking, and others I will literally sit and listen to on repeat until I'm sick of them. I'm no music critic and I may be no good at explaining why I like a song, but when I love a song and find that I can't praise it enough, I will say literally everything I can to hype it up.
  1. Niall Horan - Slow Hands (Basic Tape Remix): My dad and I only agree on dance music about 50% of the time, but we both love a good remix, and I only found out about this particular one because he had used it in one of his 'chilled out' playlists that we were listening to in the car one day. I immediately added it to my music library as it was playing through the car stereo, and I haven't stopped listening to it since. The original song is pretty good - nothing spectacular, but quite a calm track with a good baseline that's pleasant to hear on the radio - but this remix amps up everything that was good about the original and adds in some electronic elements that I love.
  2. Carly Rae Jepsen - Fever: I only remembered that Emotion: Side B existed because The Double Agent included the whole album in his list of songs that he was embarrassed to have enjoyed in 2016. I never had a problem with Carly Rae when 'Call Me Maybe' was huge, and over the years, I've enjoyed her singles more and more ('Cut To The Feeling' might be one of the happiest songs that I've ever heard). I went back and listened to a few of the songs from Emotion: Side B, and lo and behold, I found this. So infectious, so deep and yet so light and upbeat. I love everything about this.
  3. Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa - One Kiss: This one speaks for itself. Probably one of the best hit songs of the year so far, and definitely the song of the summer for 2018. I love Dua's voice, and Calvin's music is only getting better. 
  4. Dua Lipa - IDGAF (Hazers Remix): As much as I love Dua Lipa's voice, I always feel like her singles are missing something. This remix, like the 'Slow Hands' remix, takes everything I loved about the original and somehow made them better while creating a great dance track. I was a little lukewarm on 'IDGAF' until I heard this mix, and now, I'm always happy to hear the original on the radio.
  5. M83 - Midnight City: Not a recent song, but one that I've recently added to my library and have been gravitating towards more and more. There's something so calming about it, and it feels so familiar, like it's just always been in my life, even though I only remembered that it existed because Todd In The Shadows pointed out in a year-end list that 'Paris' by The Chainsmokers, which is another song that I love, sounds very similar to it. 
  6. Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble - This Is Me (Dave Audé Remix): I literally can't praise this enough. I had this in my library before I had seen the film, listened to the soundtrack or even heard the original song all the way through. And yes, the original is powerful and uplifting and makes me well up every time I hear it. But this remix is on another level. This is how you do self-empowerment.
  7. Chocolate Puma (feat. Chateau) - Gotta Get Away: I'm not entirely sure what it is that makes this song click for me every time I listen to it, but it makes me feel so much. Maybe it has something to do with discovering it at this particular time in my life, when I'm not sure where, or even who, I'm meant to be. All I know is that things can only keep getting better. That's what this song is: a mantra to go forward to better times, and leave toxic habits and negative attitudes behind.
  8. Alex Newell, Jess Glynne, DJ Cassidy & Nile Rodgers - Kill The Lights (Audien Remix): There are so many talented people involved in this that it could never not turn out awesome. While I found most of the songs on this list through Apple Music recommendations, I only found out about this because it was played in a dance video on Instagram, and I fell in love with the song at once. I dare anyone to listen to that drop and not immediately want to dance. It gives me goosebumps. Infectious, carefree, and such a joy to listen to. EDM at its best. 
  9. Dua Lipa - New Rules (Initial Talk Remix): Radio 2 loves this song, and so do I. The person who made this is a genius, because I never would have thought that 'New Rules' could work so well as an 80s pop song. It helps that 'New Rules' is an absolute anthem, but there was always something a little off to me about the way that it 'drops'. The remix fixes that. In case you can't tell, I love it when a remix 'fixes' a song, i.e. makes it more suited to my specific taste in music. I'm selfish like that.
  10. Ninja Sex Party - Everybody Wants To Rule The World: Confession: I've never heard the original Tears For Fears song all the way through. Another confession: I very rarely mention my love of this band to others just because they have a silly name. And yeah, they're a comedy band. Of course they have a silly name. But their Under The Covers albums are fantastic, and Dan Avidan is probably one of my favourite human beings currently alive, not even exaggerating. His voice just brings me so much joy, and although I'm not usually a fan of covers, I find myself listening to these over and over again.


Friday, 6 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 6/30: How To Win My Heart

Day 6: Five ways to win your heart

And so, one-fifth of the way into the challenge, we get to the soppy, embarrassing stuff. I'm single and have been all my life (aside from a few weeks during my uni days which I won't go into because criiiiinge), and I'm simultaneously ready to give up on ever finding someone, searching for them wherever I go, and simply waiting for somebody to show up and sweep me off my feet. I'd say I'm pretty easy to please, and to be fair, this list wasn't too difficult to put together. So here are the five surefire ways to win the heart of some lonely twenty-one-year-old who spends way too much time on the Internet. I'm amazed 'tagging me in memes' isn't somewhere on here (although that is important too).
  1. Smiling. So simple, yet so effective. As an introvert, I'm far more likely to engage in conversation with someone who looks warm and approachable than somebody who comes across as intimidating. Sure, looks can be deceiving, and sometimes those who you passed off as sullen or grumpy when you first met could turn out to be the happiest people once you get to know them, but a smile is always an encouraging first step. Smiley people just kinda melt my heart. Maybe that's why I love Emilia Clarke. I don't think I've ever seen a photo of her where she isn't smiling.
  2. Being a good conversationalist. Again, this comes back to me being an introvert. I'm unlikely to make the first move in a social situation unless I'm feeling particularly brave, so somebody who can get the ball rolling is always a plus. Someone who is open-minded enough to discuss any subject is also a bonus. I'm a big fan of people who will throw out random conversation starters until you weigh in. They're the sort of people who seem to be able to make any subject interesting, even if it's about whether you prefer brown or white bread or what colour your socks are.
  3. Introducing me to new music. This is an important one. People who have introduced me to new music always stick in my head. I spent so long trying to get over the guy who introduced me to The 1975 that it's honestly embarrassing to look back at that period of my life. It really makes me smile when people show me a song that they think I'd like, even if I end up not liking it at all. It means that they thought of me and my specific music taste while listening to it, and that makes me feel special. Value the people who introduce you to new music. They might just be the ones who know the way to your heart.
  4. Making me laugh. Another simple one. It's fairly easy to make me laugh, but my sense of humour can get a little weird and niche at times because I spend so much time online. Somebody who knows how to make me laugh until I can't breathe is definitely somebody special. 
  5. Having good manners. Being nice to waiters is a guaranteed way to win my heart. Little things like table manners and saying 'please' and 'thank you' are traits that I really admire in someone, especially since I come across people on a daily basis who don't do these very simple things, and it aggravates me to no end. I get so sick of people who think they're too good to show others respect. Be polite, be respectful. *insert PewDiePie 'respect wamen' meme here*
I'd say I'm pretty easy to please. Come to think of it, you can scrap this list entirely and just settle for buying me some McNuggets. I'll be yours forever.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 5/30: Places I Want To Visit

Day 5: List five places you want to visit

I'm not exactly a globetrotter. The furthest afield I've ever been was on a family holiday to Tobago in 2005 when I was eight years old, and I remember basically nothing except that I got so sick before we left for the holiday that I barely left the hotel room on the first day, it was the first and only time I've ever experienced a swim-up bar (which was useless since I was way too young to order a piña colada), and that it was so hot that ice cream started melting the second it left the freezer. I'm a bit of a homebody and I love Scotland with all my heart, but like most other people, I occasionally get bitten by the travelling bug and want to go exploring. Coming back from Prague last year was tough because it was my first holiday in over a year, and I didn't want to go back to ordinary life after visiting such a lovely place. For weeks afterwards, I was desperate to plan another holiday. There are way more than five places I would like to visit, but I'll try to make a cohesive list anyway.
  1. Birmingham. Starting this list on a curveball. This is all thanks to my best friend talking it up to me while she was visiting it earlier this year, and little things that she mentioned made me curious to pay it a visit one day. It seems to be a creative place with plenty of shops, modern architecture and lots to do, plus my friend told me that there is a library there that is yellow on the inside. A yellow building full of books is basically my idea of heaven. Of course I want to go there.
  2. Amsterdam. Because I'm predictable as all hell. Literally everybody I know has photos of them in Amsterdam scattered on their Instagram accounts, and I feel like I'm missing out over here. Sounds like it would make a cool, laid-back getaway. Plus the flight would be short, so there's that too. 
  3. Iceland. This one has been on my list for a while. Hot springs, the Northern Lights, and amazing landscapes that would make for some amazing photographs? Wonderful, I'm in. I hear that it's super expensive though, so may have to wait until I have the funds.
  4. Barcelona. Mind you, I could replace this with any number of places in Spain, and this entry would be the same. I've been to Tenerife and Ibiza, but I've never been to mainland Spain to experience the culture. I have a feeling that a holiday to Spain would be the perfect combo of lazing around in the sun and heading out to go sightseeing. Plus I can kinda sorta speak a bit of Spanish, so I could probably get by for a little while over there.
  5. Hawaii. Probably one of the places in the world I'd most like to visit, even if it's just to look through the telescopes at the visitor centre on Mauna Kea or experience Lahaina Noon. Every photo I've ever seen of a Hawaii beach just leaves me breathless. I could even deal with the long flight to get out there if it meant that I could end up in such a gorgeous place. I mean, it's volcanoes, beaches and observatories. It's like this place was made for me.
(Honourable mentions for this list include Croatia and Malta, purely because the Game of Thrones fan in me wants to see all those iconic settings.)

In a previous post, I mentioned that I'm not much of an adventurer, and I like to stick to the familiar and the safe. I think I could put that on hold if I were offered the chance to travel somewhere with good weather, a handful of museums and galleries, trendy cocktail bars and great photo ops. Even somewhere that I might not realise would be a great destination could turn out to be one of the best places I've ever visited, and that was the case with Prague. It was everything I could have wanted in a holiday: sightseeing, lovely food and drink, and plenty of fantastic memories. Hopefully, my next holiday will be one that will remain in my heart forever.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 4/30: Someone Who Inspires Me

Day 4: Write about someone who inspires you

I don't think that there is one single person in life that inspires me. There should be names that I could list here of inspirational people who have achieved so much, who have taken their lives from below rock-bottom all the way to the top of their field. But I feel awkward taking too much inspiration from one person or trying to live my life the exact way that another person does. Trying to emulate somebody else doesn't exactly appeal to me.

Different people inspire me for different reasons. My brother inspires me with his courage to take on new challenges. My best friend inspires me with her emotional strength and the way that she was able to turn her whole life around. My old university classmates inspire me with their ambition and their talent. I'm inspired by celebrities who use their fame for good, who give to charity and make dreams come true. Inspiration is everywhere you look.

In the act of looking for inspiration, however, there is that lurking danger of comparison. There is a thin line between inspiration and envy, and I'd like to point to writing as an example. The Instagram writing community is full of talented poets whose work I enjoy a great deal, but whenever a particularly great work appears on my Instagram feed, I can't help but feel a twinge of jealousy that the poem doesn't belong to me. Sure, I can take inspiration from it to create my own poem that incorporates both the best parts of the poem that I saw on Instagram and my own personal flair, but there will still be that lingering wish to be just as good as the writer of the original poem.

There is no joy in comparison, but there is joy to be found in inspiration. Inspiration is how we decide what we want to create and what kind of person we want to be, and when inspiration knocks, it's trying to tell us something important. Answer the door, and be inspired.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 3/30: Pet Peeves

Day 3: What are your top three pet peeves?

This list could go far beyond three pet peeves. Plenty of things annoy me on a daily basis. There's a reason that the first word in my blog name literally means 'filled with bitter criticism or malice'. I'd like to think that I'm a peaceful person who avoids conflict at all costs, but there are certain things that get me so riled that I want to put my fist through a wall just thinking about them.

Actually, since I'm British, my reaction to my pet peeves is more along the lines of disapprovingly pursing my lips and sighing heavily. That sounds more accurate. Wouldn't want to cause a scene, after all.

Anyway, here are some pet peeves:
  1. Rudeness towards people who are just doing their jobs. I am always always ALWAYS sympathetic towards retail/hospitality staff and people who work with the public in general, simply because working with people is so draining on days when you get all the bad customers. When the customers are good, your day is great. But when a bad one comes along...oh boy. I've been on the receiving end of stuff like this before at many of my previous jobs. Customers complaining about prices is a particular favourite of mine. My first job was behind a till in a local café, and people would frequently confront me at the till, asking why they were paying upwards of £6 for a sandwich. Like, I don't know what to tell you, mate. The prices are clearly displayed on that board over the counter for you to look at when you walk in. I'm not trying to con you, I'm just doing my job. I don't make up the prices, I just put them through the till. If you have a legitimate complaint about prices, take it up with someone who can do something about it. DO NOT take it out on nervous teenagers who are giving up their weekends to work a minimum-wage job. That's just not cool. This peeve of mine goes far beyond these sorts of jobs (I remember an old friend once describing the abuse she received from patients while training to be a nurse, which is a very different work environment in which patrons are scared and uncomfortable, but where the people who are working hard to help them should not go through such things), but I can only really speak from my own experiences. I've been reduced to tears by awful customers in several of my previous jobs (mostly my first job when I was learning how to adapt to the world of work and build confidence), and I would not wish that on anybody.
  2. Littering. This is a biggie. There is literally no excuse for this, and I'm baffled as to why it still happens. Walk down a street in a city or a town, and just look around at how much rubbish there is on the pavement. Walk down a country road and see how many people have flung empty coffee cups and fast food packaging out of their car windows because they can't simply hold onto their garbage until they get home, where they can throw it in a bin or - even better - recycle it. I'm not exactly a role model myself when it comes to recycling or even keeping my place clean, but at least I'm not an animal who sticks chewed gum on the underside of tables or drops crumpled wrappers two feet from a bin. If you buy a drink in a disposable cup, for example, it is then your responsibility to find somewhere to dispose of said cup when you have finished it. But the worst part of littering is that it's so hard to confront people about it without sounding like a goody-two-shoes or getting an angry response from the litterer. Chances are, if someone is ignorant enough to litter, they're the type of person who will get overly-defensive when confronted about it, and will most likely cuss you out instead of obediently picking up their rubbish. It's a polite and civilised thing to do, disposing of trash, and not nearly enough people do it.
  3. Grammatical errors. I'm a former English & Creative Writing student, and although spelling and grammar is not the most important aspect of writing, you can bet your ass that grammatical errors annoy the hell out of me. Although I'll grudgingly admit that my grammar is not always 100% accurate, it's frustrating to still see people using the wrong form of 'your/you're', 'there/their/they're' or 'to/too/two' on social media. It's extra frustrating when you can tell that someone is trying to use the correct grammar and is putting apostrophes where they don't belong. Misplaced apostrophes are probably one of my biggest pet peeves all on their own, and the worst part is that they're everywhere. I even saw one misused in BBC News subtitles once, and I immediately pointed it out while my family members rolled their eyes. Typos and errors are everywhere I look, and let me just say that I know that the English language is tricky and annoying and that pretty much nobody has perfect grammar or spelling, especially not in this day and age where autocorrect and hasty typing can result in some pretty weird results. I feel as if my writing skills are competent, but even I Google words or grammar rules to make sure that I'm writing everything out as well as I can. Not everybody takes the Internet as seriously as I do, however, and places like Facebook are littered with grammatically-incorrect, misspelled, sometimes incomprehensible posts. It's beyond frustrating, especially since some of the rules are so easy to follow, and yet somehow, they are so easily forgotten. It's always people who I feel should know better who commit the worst errors, at least in my experience. Teachers and managers and people who are native English speakers who have learned these rules since they first attended school. Maybe it's just me projecting onto others, but I cannot understand why people would post a body of text on the Internet that is so full of errors, making them look so foolish, when I have literally had nightmares about putting out grammatically-incorrect tweets. It's a genuine fear of mine, maybe because I pride myself on my writing ability, and if somebody found even a simple misspelling in one of my posts, it would be humiliating. And yes, there have been times when I have misspelled a word in a Facebook post simply due to poor proofreading and typing too fast, but that's what the edit button is for. Take care with what you post online, folks. There are Grammar Nazis like me everywhere, silently judging everything you type. 
So, in direct contrast to Day 1 of this challenge - making a list of things that make you happy - why not make a list of things that irritate you? Doesn't that just sound like so much fun?


Monday, 2 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 2/30: What I Never Forgot

Day 2: Write something that someone told you about yourself that you never forgot

Years ago, an ex-best friend's mother told me that I was 'too nice'. I remember where I was when she told me this (in her robust 4x4 as we were heading into town together), but I cannot for the life of me remember the conversation that led up to this moment. I remember falling silent after she expressed this thought, mulling over what I had just heard. 'Too nice'? What did that even mean? Can a person ever be 'too nice', and if they can, how do I fall into that category? I barely consider myself 'nice' let alone 'too nice'.

It's something that has always stuck with me, and I think the reason why I remember this and why it affects me so much even now is the very reason that proves it to be true: I care too much.

On the surface, it might seem like I care about certain things very little. I take a long time to reply to messages. I don't keep my bedroom tidy. I'm not normally the first to start a conversation. And these things may make it seem as though I'm not a nice person, and I often find myself debating whether or not I am a nice person because I consistently make bad decisions, and I feel as though I let people down on a regular basis.

But in my head, I care far too much. I don't reply to messages right away if I'm not in a good enough mood to have a full-on conversation, because my friend deserves someone who can engage with them properly. Sometimes, I just can't think of anything to say. I find it hard to start clearing out my room because I don't know where to start, and my brain starts spiralling away with options of how I could organise things. As a result, I get overwhelmed, and settle for doing nothing and living in the mess. I find it hard to start a conversation because every conversation starter that pops into my head sounds lame or weird or cringe-inducing, and I spend so much time deciding on how to start a conversation that the other person has already lost interest in the weird silent girl standing beside them by the time any words make it out of my mouth.

And I guess that this 'caring too much' thing must seep through somehow. I feel like I am never involved enough in other people's problems when they need help, and yet other people's problems keep me up at night. I'm the one who tries to remain calm when someone tells me about their problems to avoid looking strange, but I'm sometimes the one who ends up caring more than they do. I am the one who gives people the benefit of the doubt at all times, and who always tends to make excuses for other people's behaviour, always assuming that I don't know everything about a situation.

In this sense, being 'too nice' is a weakness of mine. It is very easy for others to play on my emotions and as such, I feel as if I am naïve enough to become a victim of manipulation. There have been moments when I have tried to stop being 'too nice', times when I have put my foot down and been the very opposite of 'too nice' to get a point across, and I've ended up feeling wracked with guilt with the thought that I have hurt somebody for my own gain. It's hard for me to even be honest about negative emotions (even though I know that it is far better to be honest even if the truth hurts) because I hate the thought of offending somebody else, even if my intention is not to offend but simply to express my own feelings.

But it should go without saying that being nice is not a bad thing. Yes, there may be such a thing as being 'too nice', but in a world where it seems like kindness is a diminishing trait, it is always a treat to come across people who are genuinely nice. They're always the people that stick in my mind, and the people that I feel grateful to have met. It is a brave act to be kind, and I may not have mastered it completely, but I wish I could. As stated earlier, I feel like I overthink everything far too much to ever truly engage in full-on kindness and emotional openness, but I hope that I will get there one day. I hope that I will someday have the confidence to be truly kind, without worrying that somebody will call me 'too nice', or tell me that my kindness is weakness. Kindness is not weakness. Do not be ashamed of being kind.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

30 Day Writing Challenge 1/30: Ten Things That Make Me Happy

I'm a full month into the blogging game now, and I'm actually enjoying it! It hasn't (yet) started to feel like hard work, so I'm going full steam ahead and seeing if I can cope with a 30-day challenge. 

And yes, I am aware that I have chosen this particular 30-day challenge despite the fact that we are entering July, a month with 31 days. Never said I was perfect, lads.

This one that I have found doesn't tell me the name of its creator or where it came from - I simply found it on Google Images with the header '30 Day Writing Challenge'. It was the best one I could find with its mixture of serious and light-hearted topics, so it should be an interesting one! Since my Tumblr days, I've loved these month-long challenges; they provide a chance to talk a little about yourself but also to invite people to answer the question themselves. I'm a big fan of challenges that ask unusual questions that make you work for an answer, and there a couple mixed in here.

So, without further ado, here is the prompt for Day 1:

Day 1: List ten things that make you really happy
  1. Writing. Let's get the most obvious one out of the way first! Of course writing makes me happy. It can also make me frustrated, angry, upset, bitter or lonely, but for the most part, writing keeps me happy. If, for some crazy reason, I were banned from writing, whether that be writing poetry or stories or posts like this, I would be totally lost. Putting pen to paper/fingertips to keyboard comforts me and helps me clear my head. It's what I do when I'm feeling irrational or confused, and it's how I try to work things out.
  2. Sitting down to do my makeup. This applies more to my days off or nights out than it does to everyday makeup application since my work makeup is pretty minimal and boring, but when I sit down at my desk with the intention of doing my makeup, I am aware that I am entering a state of calm in which I can take my time and let the products work their magic on my mediocre complexion. To people who don't care about makeup, this will make zero sense, but the process of applying makeup is one that should not be rushed. It is relaxed and pleasurable (at least until you screw up your eyeliner and have to start the whole eye look over again and goddammit this looked SO MUCH EASIER IN THAT INSTAGRAM TUTORIAL), and the act of getting ready for a night out in particular makes me beyond happy. I settle down at my desk, throw on my party playlist, crack open a bottle of Lambrini, and start to glam up. Pure. Bliss.
  3. Losing weight. I've said it before that I've never been 100% happy with my appearance, but thanks to 2B Mindset and this healthy eating kick, I'm on my way to a better me. There will be people who say that it shouldn't matter how much I weigh and that I should value more than how I look, but I'm a strong believer in 'when you look good, you feel good', so I'm gonna stick with what will make me happy. The fact that I have lost weight and that I consequently feel better about myself is making me happy. I'm gonna stick with that and say that it's a good thing.
  4. Feeling as if I have done something worthwhile. There is an episode of Friends in which Phoebe is adamant that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed because, by performing a selfless good deed, it makes you feel good and negates the 'selfless' description because the pleasure of helping somebody else is your reward. I'm living proof that this is true. Since I was sixteen, I've worked many jobs in which I've had to interact with customers, and there have been times when I've gone out of my way to help somebody because they needed extra assistance or just because I was feeling particularly agreeable that day. Whenever a customer gives me a genuine smile or a compliment (whenever someone calls me a 'star', I feel a bit warm and fuzzy because it's just such a darn cute thing to be called) and I feel like I've made a difference to their day, it makes me happy. There will be people who never show gratitude for the work that you do for them, and interactions like that will leave you wondering why you even bothered. It's the ones that let you know that you made a positive impact that really matter. Focus on them.
  5. Electronic dance music. I just straight up love EDM. I feel like it's a misunderstood genre, and people might associate it too much with rowdy teenagers dropping acid at festivals, or they might think that it's all just noise. But oh boy, I love it. My appreciation of EDM is a whole other blog post in itself, but it's definitely my genre of choice when it comes to choosing what to listen to. The dance tracks that are sitting in my Top 25 Most Played in iTunes are the kind of songs that make me happy to be alive.
  6. Views from high-rise rooms. For two years, I lived in a flat on the fourth floor with a view of the city. Watching the scenes change beyond the window became such a comforting routine for me. But views from the fourth floor were nothing compared to the views from my room in university halls, when I lived on the seventh floor and overlooked the river, the huge window allowing me to see both sunrises and sunsets over the city. I'll never forget those views. Doubt I'll ever be able to live on the ground floor again.
  7. Anything that makes me laugh. Super generic, because I'm pretty darn sure I'm not the only one in the world that likes to laugh, but when it comes to laughter, I'm very easily pleased. Want a way to keep me occupied for a few hours? Throw on a Game Grumps Sonic Compilation (doesn't matter which Sonic game - each of those playthroughs is comedy gold), sit me in front of a computer, and watch me laugh my ass off for the millionth time. YouTube is always my go-to for a good laugh, but I love comedies that are easy to watch, TV shows and movies that make me chuckle no matter how many times I watch them. I referenced Friends in a previous point, and that's a perfect example of a show that I still laugh at despite the fact that I pretty much know every episode off by heart.
  8. Little adventures. I'm not exactly the world's greatest adventurer. My idea of an adventure is a late-night McDonald's run or a train journey to somewhere that I've never been before - sticking with something reliable but straying just far enough outside my comfort zone to keep me excited. When I was in Dundee, I would go for long walks around the city during the day, finding roads that I had never been along before, and now that I am back in Aberdeenshire, my little adventures often involve driving out to a National Trust site (Haddo House, Fyvie Castle, somewhere like that) and taking a leisurely stroll while snapping some photos. These are moments in which I kinda forget that the rest of the world exists, and I'm just strolling around in a little bubble, not really knowing where I'm going, but enjoying the journey.
  9. Meeting up with friends. My friends all have such busy schedules that it's basically impossible for us to catch up over coffee or just hang out. A get-together with my best friend is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, but when those occurrences come around, they are moments to treasure. It doesn't even matter what we do or for how long we see each other. It's great just to have a quick chat about life before saying goodbye and going back to tagging each other in memes until our next get-together comes about.
  10. Turning off my morning alarm on my days off. While I don't like getting up too late in the morning since I take a long time to get ready for my day, it's blissful to just wake up naturally and not deal with an alarm blaring in your ear and interrupting your dreams. Is there any better feeling than lying in bed, half-awake, with the knowledge that you have no responsibilities for the day ahead? I really don't think there is.
So those are ten things that make me really happy, and if you took a shot every time you read the word 'happy' in this post, you would probably die, so please don't. Go and make a list like this yourself - it's quite pleasant to just sit and think of things that make you smile!
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